Claes Oldenburg

Thomas Cole: “The Oxbow” (1836).

'Thomas Cole's Journey: Atlantic Crossings' at the Met



The exhibition ‘Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings’ examines, for the first time, the artist’s transatlantic career and engagement with European art. Metropolitan Museum, January 30 – May 13, 2018.

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Celebrated as one of America’s preeminent landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) was born in northern England at the start of the Industrial Revolution, emigrated to the United States in his youth, and traveled extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist. He returned to America to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American artists, launching a national school of landscape art.

With Cole’s masterwork “The Oxbow” (1836) as its centerpiece, the exhibition features more than three dozen examples of his large-scale landscape paintings, oil studies, and works on paper. Consummate paintings by Cole are juxtaposed with works by European masters including J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, among others, highlighting the dialogue between American and European artists and establishing Cole as a major figure in 19th-century landscape art within a global context. The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of Cole’s arrival in America.

The exhibition follows the chronology of Cole’s life, beginning with his origins in recently industrialized northern England, his arrival in the United States in 1818, and his embrace of the American wilderness as a novel subject for landscape art of the New World. Early works by Cole reveal his prodigious talent. After establishing himself as the premier landscape painter of the young United States, he traveled back to Europe. The next section explores in depth Cole’s return to England in 1829–31 and his travels in Italy in 1831–32, revealing the development of his artistic processes. Upon his return to America, Cole applied the lessons he had learned abroad to create the five-part series “The Course of Empire” (1834–36). These works reveal a definition of the new American Sublime that comes to its fullest expression in “The Oxbow” (1836). Finally, the exhibition concludes with an examination of Cole’s legacy in the works of the next generation of American landscape painters whom Cole personally mentored, notably Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church.



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Thomas Cole - The Oxbow


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